Assessor reports — and testimonials where applicable — play an integral role in the Eureka Prizes judging process, yet entrants and nominators can overlook their importance. A carefully selected set of assessors is essential for maximising the quality and impact of your submission as they support your account of the significance and impact of the entered activity, adding depth and credibility to claims. From planning your approaches to setting assessors up with an appropriate level of detail, we share our tips for preparing your reports.

Dr Qilin Wang, 2020 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher

2020 Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher winner Dr Qilin Wang has developed a technology that would transform energy-consuming, high-emission sewage treatment plants into energy-producing, low-emission plants.

Image: Baro Lee
© University of Technology Sydney

Approach a broad mix of individuals​

One of the most common mistakes is entrants not approaching a broad enough mix of individuals. They key is to ensure you’re offering the judging panel a set of rounded and unbiased perspectives. ​What that looks like in practice is going to vary between prizes and entries, but at the very least you should be branching out beyond your organisation.​

Refer to the assessment criteria when planning your approaches​

All roads lead back to the assessment criteria! ​Remember: the majority of each assessor’s report is a response to it, so consider how well an individual is placed to do that.​ Although each assessor must respond to all criteria, think about how they can fill any gaps in your own responses.​​ If you feel less confident talking about one criterion, seek out an assessor who can focus on that for you.​ Similarly, give some thought to how your assessors might complement one another.

Don’t just select the most accessible person​

The most accessible person isn’t necessarily going to be the best placed to endorse your work, and taking this route can often lead to a situation where you’ve not selected a broad enough mix of individuals.​ The prospect of making an approach might be daunting but try not to be deterred by it.​ Reaching out to someone you really admire, who's an established expert in their field, can be a rewarding experience for you, especially when you're reading what they've got to say!​ Going the extra mile can really make your entry shine.​

2023 Eureka Prizes Award Ceremony - winners

Combining expertise across physics, medicine and engineering, the Cystic Fibrosis Lung Health Imaging team developed a novel medical imaging method called X-ray Velocimetry. The team was awarded the 2023 Aspire Scholarship Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Scientific Research. Pictured with Caitlin Skinner from Business Events Perth (left).

Image: Mel Koutchavlis
© Australian Museum

Assessors should not be personally or directly involved in the activity entered​

You’ll see this line in the prize information and it’s something we receive a lot of questions about. Essentially, you need to be confident that each assessor can offer an unbiased evaluation and wouldn’t enjoy a direct benefit by endorsing your work.​ Every research scenario is unique so there's not hard and fast rule, which is why we aren't more prescriptive here. What this does mean is that an entry won’t be deemed ineligible simply on account of an assessor being perceived as too close to the work. That said, it’s best if there’s no confusion about an assessor's level of involvement. Put simply, you’re the best judge of someone's suitability as an assessor in relation to this requirement and if in doubt, err on the side of caution and move on.

Brief your assessors ​

Setting your assessors up with an appropriate level of detail will make a real difference to the strength of their report.​ Ensure they have the template linked in the prize information and are clear on how to complete it. Be sure to share the prize information for context and highlight the prize purpose and criteria to them.​ It’s a good idea to be upfront about your reasons for selecting them as well as whether there’s anything you’d like them to take extra lengths to communicate.

2023 AM Eureka Prizes – Finalist

2023 University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers, Professor Kate Jolliffe. She has established both national and international supramolecular chemistry networking groups, which fostered collaborations, as well as promoting gender equality and strengthening Australia's global research standing in this field.

Image: Supplied
© Australian Museum

Ensure they provide clear evidence to support their claims

You might recall this one from our earlier post, but it’s also relevant to assessor reports. A key feature of every successful entry is evidence that demonstrates the achievements have been delivered, so it’s important that you get your assessors’ backing with this. Regardless of how much praise exists in the public domain around your entered work, the judging panel can only consider what has been formally submitted — so enlist each assessor's help with ensuring your suite of entry materials includes plenty of specific examples to support claims.

Communicate and manage timelines

You’ve gone the extra mile and approached your ideal assessor, given them some gentle guidance … but come the entry deadline, there’s no sign of their report. When briefing your assessors, make sure you’re also clear about timeframes and the need to return the completed document directly to you. Take things one step further and check in with them before the deadline so you’re not thrown a roadblock to submitting the materials you’ve spent weeks carefully preparing. It’s an unfortunate scenario that we observe each year but, regrettably, assessor reports cannot be accepted separately after the entry deadline.

Kakadu NESP Team

This team of Indigenous custodians and scientists has developed new ways to apply science and Indigenous knowledge to managing Kakadu National Park. Their work saw them recognised as one of three finalists in the 2020 Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion.

Image: Australian Museum
© Australian Museum

Preparing a testimonial

If you’re submitting an entry into the Eureka Prize for Excellence in Research Software, Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science or Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion, you’ll also need to prepare a testimonial. This material is intended to help judges better understand the first-hand experiences of the project or initiative’s target audience. One of the key things that weakens a testimonial is not approaching a direct beneficiary: it’s not enough to have someone who’s observed the impact on the target audience. Each of these prizes has a strong focus on audience or user engagement, so judges need to understand the lived experience of community members in relation to the project’s impact.

In most cases, assessor reports and testimonials make up approximately half of the entry materials you’re asked to submit. While your choice of assessors and the reports they prepare won’t fundamentally change the activity you enter, following these guidelines will ensure each report is optimised, boosting your chances of selection as much as it possibly can.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.